Thrive International provides housing and resettlement support for Ukrainian refugees

By Emma Ledbetter

This report was made possible thanks to contributions to FāVS from readers and members like you. Thanks.

Spokane-based non-profit organization Prosper International was founded less than three weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, triggering one of the largest refugee crises around the world – prompting the organization to pivot to focus on the thousands of displaced Ukrainians entering Spokane.

“Even as we were kicking off, this crisis was spreading through our community, so it only made sense that we would make this the primary focus of what we do at Thrive,” said Thrive Executive Director Mark Finney.

An early partnership with the Ukrainian Relief Coalition, an organization of local Slavic churches supporting Ukrainians, resulted in Thrive International receiving $1 million in funding from the Washington Department of Commerce for resettlement work, said Boris Borisov, senior pastor of Pacific Keep Church and Ukrainian Relief Coalition. member. With this funding, they have provided housing for around 200 people, with more expected in the coming months.

Tackling the housing crisis

Grand opening of Thrive Center on July 23 / Photo courtesy of Thrive International

With funding from the Department of Commerce, Thrive purchased a former Quality Inn to provide housing for Ukrainian refugees. The Ukrainian Relief Coalition sent out a form for refugees to apply to live at the facility, known as the Thrive Center, and almost immediately received around 80 applications, Borisov said.

Mark Finney / Thrive International Executive Director

“Most of these Ukrainian refugees were living with friends and family. It will save you from going out on the streets, but it can be quite stressful,” Finney said. “For us to be able to create this housing, allow people to have their own space and take some of the burden off the people who are housing them – that seems like a huge win for everyone.”

Spokane’s pre-existing housing crisis creates a serious problem for immigrants moving to the area because they often lack a rental or credit history, Finney said. Even though housing is critical to survival, few federal organizations and grants are addressing this issue.

After the first wave of refugees arrived in early summer, fewer people moved into the Thrive Center. However, the Ukrainian Relief Coalition is monitoring people who come to Spokane to make sure there is space available for them, Borisov said.

Part of a bigger puzzle

Thrive International is faith-friendly, which means it doesn’t subscribe to any specific religion, but rather encourages people to cultivate their personal faith, Finney said. The organization has partnered with a number of local faith-based organizations, including the churches that make up the Ukrainian Relief Coalition, to provide spiritual support.

Boris Borisov / Senior Pastor of Pacific Keep Church and member of Ukrainian Relief Coalition

Pacific Keep Church used the Thrive Center conference room for Sunday services while the congregation moved church buildings, Borisov said. This allowed people staying in the building to access church services in their native language.

“Even though we all speak English, many of us still speak Russian and Ukrainian, so we were able to provide services in both,” he said. “It’s almost like therapy, in a way, because it’s important to be around people who understand your language and culture and the local Spokane community.”

In addition to spiritual partnerships, Thrive partners with refugee resettlement agencies like World Relief and the International Resettlement Committee, as well as various medical and social organizations in the Spokane area, Finney said.

Thrive does not provide trauma counseling or other social services, but workers will connect refugees to appropriate programs, he said. This ensures that refugees receive adequate support and that workers do not hire more than they can handle.

Survival becomes prosperous

Thrive International’s name is key to its mission; the organization’s goal is to enable multicultural communities not just to survive, but to thrive. Even though the nonprofit is not a faith-based organization, the idea of ​​thriving comes from a Bible passage in Jeremiah 29, Finney said.

Ukrainian children playing in the swimming pool at Thrive Center / Photo courtesy of Thrive International

When people move to a new place, they shouldn’t languish there, he said. Instead, they should seek prosperity – prosper – in the community in which they find themselves by building houses, planting gardens, marrying and having children.

“This vision translates into the contemporary refugee crisis around the world,” Finney said. “Refugees are a huge asset to our community in so many ways. They start businesses, bring new cultures and new ideas, and they enrich our community in many ways. As our new immigrants thrive, this contributes to the growth of the community.

Finney said there are five areas that are markers of prosperity: helping people socially, emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. If Thrive International supports people in each of these areas, it is achieving its goals.

The human mind

Finney said the best part of working with refugees is the stories he hears and participates in.

A young man came to the Thrive Center after living for several months in Estonia. He and his girlfriend both fled Mariupol, a Ukrainian city besieged during the war. He had been trying to catch up with his girlfriend and her family so he could propose to her, but they kept missing each other.

“At one point he arrived at the same place they did, 25 minutes after they left,” Finney said. “Finally, the night he arrived [in Spokane], he said: ‘I’m not going to wait at all, I’m just going to propose. I want to get down on my knees as soon as I walk through the door.'”

He contacted the manager of the Thrive Center office, who bought roses and balloons so he could propose as soon as he arrived from the airport. His girlfriend said yes.

“Not only was it special to be there for this moment, but it inspires me – the resilience of the human spirit,” Finney said. “These are people who no longer have a home, they come from a city that was destroyed by a war. Yet their commitment to each other, their future, and their love is enough that even if they find themselves halfway around the world in a city they’ve never heard of before, they’ll find always a way to continue their life and flourish.

This report was made possible thanks to contributions to FāVS from readers and members like you. Thanks.

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